Carbon neutral access and opportunity workforce development

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Carbon Neutral Point of View

...reliable electricity and connectivity to remote locations in developing countries via renewable energy is becoming more cost effective... Promethean Education Strategy Group 21st Century Learning


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Workforce Development Through Renewable Energy Powering the African continent – with its population set to double to over 2 billion by 2050 – is one of the great challenges of our time. Access to energy and access to education are essential for the reduction of poverty and promotion of economic growth. Without reliable access to either, you are truly and figuratively powerless. My father, Kwaku Boateng, a freedom fighter and cabinet minister in Ghana’s first republic, struggled as a child in West Africa to find light by which to do his homework. As a child both in the UK and Ghana I was more fortunate, but many in the developing world are still denied access to ready and sustainable sources of energy. During my time as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I was a proud supporter of renewable energy in the UK. I remain so today and I am delighted that Promethean, a key Partner of the Planet Earth Institute, a charity of which I am trustee, has raised this important agenda in regard to Africa. There is no doubt that there is tremendous potential for renewable technologies on the continent. Low-carbon development, energy efficiency and climate change adaptation programmes are vital to Africa’s future. Moreover, communication technologies, industrialisation, agricultural improvements and expansion of municipal water systems all require abundant, reliable and cost-efficient energy access. Education in Africa, the focus of this paper and something I am particularly passionate about, is another area that can benefit hugely from the application of renewable technologies. For too long, the lack of reliable power has resulted in a huge lag in education on the continent, with schools still often unable to truly embrace the latest technological advances. Rural communities are left in the dark and out of reach and as the Internet continues to revolutionise worldwide educational systems, Africa remains with the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. Less than half of the world average, with some countries with only 1% of their population online. The pioneering African educator, Dr. Aggrey, travelled across Africa widely during the early 20th century championing the cause of access to education for all. He saw science as being crucial to development but stressed always the significance of a respect for nature and a shared humanity. This focus on renewable energy and its role in fulfilling Africa’s potential is so important and resonates with Aggrey’s dictum that “only the best is good enough for Africa”.

Rt. Hon. Lord Paul Boateng


Case Study: POV on Carbon Neutral | v1

True Access and Opportunity – Workforce Development Through Renewable Energy Synopsis

Despite rapid technological and infrastructure advances, the number of people in developing countries without electricity will increase, not reduce over the next 1520 years. It is an unfortunate reality that the access and opportunity gap will continue to grow given the increasing reliance on technology to deliver basic services and infrastructure.

As a result, renewables are becoming a more realistic option for energy supply and the opportunities for personal, social and economic development for greater numbers of people in developing countries are also increasing.

However, getting reliable electricity and connectivity to remote locations in developing countries via renewable energy is becoming more cost effective and practically possible, so the projections above need not become a reality.

This paper sets out some of the potential renewable energy has in capitalising on large numbers of the population in developing countries who have previously been unable to access educational, vocational and professional opportunities due to the lack of reliable electrical supply.

Off grid (where energy is generated locally and not connected to a wider energy creation and supply grid) solutions are increasingly efficient, affordable and can now create the levels of power required to support sustainable infrastructure. Furthermore, and most importantly, off grid solutions are becoming more and more portable, flexible and reliable. This of course means that power can be supplied to geographical locations previously unable to get access to national or regional energy grids, largely supplied by central power stations and facilities.

Renewable energy sources have over the past 10 years, been an increasingly important item on the agenda of most governments. Not least the need to find alternatives to fossil fuels and the concerns about energy costs and supply. Allied to this, the cost of producing renewable energy continues to fall, and the efficiency and productivity continues to rise.


Over 1.2 billion people - 20% of the world’s population are still without access to electricity worldwide, almost all of whom live in developing countries, and the number of people without access to energy in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to rise by 90 to 100 million by 2030. Without access to energy service, the poor will be deprived of the most basic of human rights and of economic opportunities to improve their standard of living. (World Bank, Energy-The Facts 2012)

scientific independence for Africa

In terms of all types and phases, this means access to technology can revolutionize education for those for whom it is currently out of reach of. Below I have set out examples of how this can occur.

What technologies can make a difference and for which types of learner? Higher Education and degree students

There has been a distinct focus on the provision of basic primary education in recent years. This is justly so, and the impetus provided by UNESCO’s Millennium Goals has concentrated the efforts of national governments and NGO’s in this area. However there has been a resultant lack of focus and investment in higher education, and many governments and NGO’s recognise the quality and quantity of appropriately trained graduates has suffered.


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Enabling the most talented individual access to the highest level of academic and professional qualifications has historically been served by students attending a university or higher education institution. Whilst this is still the predominant form of degree course delivery, distance learning has been provided for many years by the likes of the Open University in the UK (, and interestingly the most traditional and historic Universities at Oxford and Cambridge have for centuries practised the principle of the undergraduate working independently with reference to tutors and professors on a limited basis. The proliferation and rapid growth in the last few years of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) takes these principles further by using internet access. Whilst there are some question marks over the numbers of graduates resulting from MOOC enrolment (For example, of those enrolled on courses at Pennsylvania State University up to the end of 2012, only 9% attained a standardised unit achievement - Kyle L Peck Professor, Learning, Improving Teaching and change Universities Pennsylvania State University), the potential opportunities for students in developing countries are enormous if they have connectivity via reliable electrical and data sources. Therefore the creation of focused online courses that are relevant to the student and country economic, social and developmental needs is in my view a priority for MOOC providers and national governments.


Hussain lives in a remote town in North Africa. He has achieved excellent grades in his secondary education and would like to study agronomics at university so he can help the farmers in his region maximise their crop yields and maintain the land for long term efficient use. The degree is only available in the capital city 400 miles away and he could not afford to travel and stay there for the duration of his studies. However, through the provision of off grid local solar power and internet access, Hussain is able to carry out his degree studies in his town via MOOC courses delivered by the national university in collaboration with a specialist university in another country. He travels periodically to the national university for validation and evaluation of his studies, but is able to put into practice immediately with the local farmers the lessons learned. He also provides data for research for his national and international university, collaborate with them to test thesis over a short timescale and is able to develop working relationships with academics around the globe.


The quality and quantity of action, on the ground, real life research would also be enhanced with regular access to communication and data solutions in remote locations. It would also provide more cost effective models where research data needs to be collected from these locales. It could also result in greater local understanding, application and ‘buy in’ of higher education research where the results can be seen to impact on the lives of those involved in providing the data.

Exchange of Expertise

The communication between higher education and research institutions is increasing as a result of technology, and this can only lead to better understanding and improvements in the quality of the work produced. However, where these exchanges occur between institutions in developing countries and others, the model is often one of communication from institutions based in capital cities and major conurbations. Having flexible

renewable power solutions can increase not only the exchanges between in-country institutions, but between remote locations and international colleagues who can interact quickly to explore thesis and solutions more easily.

Teacher training and Professional Development –

A crucial issue in the success of education is of course the quality of the teaching delivered. As Kevin Watkins discussing the quality of education in Africa points out The region’s teachers are products of the systems in which they operate. Many have not received a decent quality education. They frequently lack detailed information about what their students are expected to learn and how their pupils are performing. Trained to deliver outmoded rote learning classes, they seldom receive the support and advice they need from more experienced teachers and education administrators on how to improve teaching. (Too Little Access, Not Enough Learning: Africa’s Twin Deficit in Education, Kevin Watkins http://www. Basic, secondary, tertiary, vocational and higher education all need sufficiently motivated, trained and supported teaching staff if they are to be successful.


Uzima is a primary teacher in a semi-rural town that also has a large migrant population of mine workers who bring their families with them for between 2-6 months. Therefore, her class can vary in size from 20-40 students and in age between 8-12 at any one time. Uzima finds it hard to support the education of both the local permanents population and the transient students. Her challenge is to understand where students are in terms of their progress and levels of understanding at any given point so she can adjust her teaching and provide appropriate lessons to meet the needs of all of her class. This itself is a real challenge to her own understanding and professional abilities as she needs to constantly find different ways to engage and teach her ever changing student population. Uzima’s school has a standalone solar and wind hybrid station (a single ‘telegraph pole’ solution with a small wind turbine and solar panel on it) that provides enough

electricity to power approximately 20 laptops for 12 hours a day. She uses the one laptop the school has as a hub, to carry out real time assessments with her class every 3 days in literacy and basic mathematics using hand held assessment devices that are battery powered (the batteries on each device last for between 12-18 months with regular use) and connect wirelessly to the laptop hub. This provides her with collated, marked feedback on each students progress so she can group the, according to ability for the next 2 days activities. She also uses the assessment devices as a baseline tool to evaluate the starting points for the transient students so they immediately receive appropriate teaching activities. Uzima also uses the connectivity the hybrid station has to access twice a week, international teaching resource websites to download simple differentiated tasks for her students, and to discuss and ask questions of colleagues in other countries on teacher forums and blogs on appropriate teaching methodologies and techniques. She then shares these with her colleagues and a culture of sharing and professional support between teachers is established.

Secondary School Age Students

What is defined as a secondary student varies across countries and education systems but for the purposes of this paper it refers to students in the approximate 11-17 age range. The availability and uptake of secondary education across developing countries is variable and is generally below that of primary or basic education. This is due to a variety of local factors, but there is some commonality across many countries due to – a) The need for secondary age children to contribute economically either to support the family or to become financially independent as soon as possible b) The concentration of the majority of aid and development resourced in basic education provision. However, what is becoming increasingly clear is secondary school based and vocationally based education plays a vital role in the development of a country’s economic prosperity, both in terms of providing students skilled


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“Promethean believes that education is the fuel that drives economic growth and social progress. Effective teaching is the key to successful, collaborative and personalised learning-which in turn creates better prepared students, more prosperous nations, more secure societies, and more engaged global citizens.” enough to train for artisanal occupations and educated sufficiently to access national and international higher education courses and institutions. Therefore this phase must be viewed at the same level of priority as primary and higher education, in other words, concentration should not be at the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ at the expense of the ‘middle.’ With that in mind it is imperative that educational initiatives to improve standards, access and opportunities must take account of this. One issue with secondary education is the proliferation of exam based assessments that vary in quality and are great in number. A recognised and respected public examination system in the secondary phase must therefore be a priority if the acceptance of students at national and international vocational and higher education institutions is to take place. Situations such as occurred in Liberia in 2013 where no school leaver (out of 25,000) passed the national university entrance exam ( news/world-africa-23843578) are extreme but highlight the issues with quality secondary provision and readiness of examination systems to prepare students effectively.


Eshe is 14 years old and wants to study to become a lawyer. She has done well at school, and knows her best chance of success is to apply to both universities in her country and to several in other countries. She lives in the outskirts of a large town and needs to access a wide range of study materials, as well as sitting internationally recognised secondary examinations if she is to apply successfully for a university place. She has no access to a reliable electricity supply or internet at home, so therefore visits a community ‘solar classroom’ that is a short walk from her school. This is a classroom in the style of a large shipping container that is highly insulated and covered in solar cells to power the air conditioning, 15 PC workstations and mobile internet connectivity inside. This allows her to study after school, conduct research on her school work and participate in distance learning activities and assessments. It means she


can take courses related to international exam boards and sit the examinations that are recognised by different universities when she applies to them.

Educational Productivity

Providing a variety of renewable energy solutions to developing countries for specific purposes, for example, for the improvement of basic education, the creation of local higher education research or simply to allow teachers and students to access a wide range of learning, teaching and professional development/training resources has obvious benefits for the individuals concerned. However, the spread of these solutions must bear these important factors in mind if they are to succeed in the long term – 1. What as the educational priorities for the locale or country? 2. What form of technology will assist in the delivery of these priorities? 3. How can the long term support and development of educational initiatives be monitored to ensure their effectiveness? Whilst the above is by no means an exhaustive list of factors, if they are considered throughout the planning, implementation and monitoring of such initiatives, the chances of maximum educational productivity are increased. What the increasing access to reliable and affordable solar and wind energy can do for education is considerable and has huge potential, if implementation is planned and focussed effectively. On the other hand, if funding agencies and national governments decide on the technology to be used first, before the priorities and imperatives are decided, then the chances of failure and wasted investment are multiplied considerably. All too many instances of ‘the latest and greatest’ or commercially driven initiatives have resulted in wasted resources, which, to put it bluntly, rob students of opportunities they might otherwise have had. This has to be a huge warning signal to all involved. Whilst the potential is great, the chances of misdirected initiatives are similarly great unless thorough consultative processes are not followed long before the decisions about what technologies to invest in are made

In Conclusion

Wider access to focussed, directed and sustainable renewable energy sources, allied to similarly focussed educational technologies, can not only improve the lot of an individual, but if implemented correctly can help a nation realise its economic potential faster than has been previously possible.

We should not assume technology in education is the sole preserve of the developed world, and indeed we need to embrace the idea that accelerated progress for individuals and countries can be much greater in developing nations if planned and implemented effectively. However the only way this can be practically carried out in a realistic timeframe is via the use of local, affordable and reliable renewable energy solutions.



Case Study: POV - Carbon Neutral | v1


EdStrat_POV - Carbon Neutral _CS_EDU 01/14 V1


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